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'Englewood Brews' Wants To Build Craft Brewery, Taproom On South Side

 Lesley Roth and Steve Marchese pitched their business plan at the first Englewood Quality of Life Business Plan Competition Dec. 15, 2016. They won $10,000.
Lesley Roth and Steve Marchese pitched their business plan at the first Englewood Quality of Life Business Plan Competition Dec. 15, 2016. They won $10,000.
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Teamwork Englewood

ENGLEWOOD — A new craft brewery with a taproom could soon be coming to Englewood.

Thanks to a $10,000 grant awarded by Teamwork Englewood, business partners Lesley Roth and Steve Marchese hope to transform their business plan into the real thing.

"There’s nothing like this in Englewood,” Roth said.

Englewood Brews would be the first microbrewery in Englewood. [Photo provided by Englewood Brews]

There are only two breweries within a 3-mile radius of 63rd and Halsted, she said.

"Neither one of them distributes or has the same business model like the one we’re proposing," she said, adding that theirs is going to be neighborhood-focused.

The two pitched “Englewood Brews” during the Englewood Quality of Life Business Plan Competition in December and took first place.  A total of 31 applied, but only nine participated in the final pitch contest.

Roth, who’s from Seattle, is an architect and urban designer. Marchese, a Milwaukee native, has been homebrewing for more than 25 years. He's an energy-efficiency specialist. Neither are from Englewood, but Roth said they have similar goals in community development. Their skills complemented one another, and their missions aligned, so they decided to go into business together, she said.

“We thought about how microbreweries are revitalizing communities, and they’re also tourist destinations,” Roth said.

They will hire from the community and work with residents to manufacture and sell the product.

“We want to have a larger economic impact for the neighborhood,” she said, adding that it would attract tourists.

Marchese, who used to work in Englewood with a nonprofit, said that he wanted to take part in the community's development. He's always dreamed of having his own brewery, he said.

"An idea can be with you for quite some time, but it has to be the right time," he said about finally making moves toward opening the business.

It’s too early to say where they'll locate the brewery, but Roth said they’re working with others on site analysis. It would be in Englewood and preferably somewhere with ample parking and near public transportation, she said.

Englewood Brews would be a place for the community to mingle.

“It’s about celebrating the positive identity of the community and creating a space where everyone feels comfortable,” Roth said.

They won’t serve food, but said they’re open to partnering with food vendors and local artisans who would. They also want to host different events such as beer and food pairings, yoga and domino tournaments.

There’s a revitalization happening in Englewood that they’re excited to be a part of, both said.

“Englewood is definitely rising,” she said. “Even with the new businesses, that doesn’t tell the whole story about just the soul and spirit of the community and the optimism, determination and motivation of residents.”

The next step is to raise money. The $10,000 is a good start, Roth said, but they still have a lot of work to do. Marchese said they're still doing research to decide on exactly how much they'll need to start. He declined to offer an estimate. 

"It costs roughly $450,000 to $800,000 to start a small brewery, say brewery entrepreneurs, and finding distributors willing to take on unproven brands can be onerous," according to the Wall Street Journal.

Second place in the business plan competition went to Eddie E. Downs of FBG Cookies and Co., and Andrea NaTay Drane secured third place with Forever Fitness Chicago. Downs shared his plan for a cookie company, and Drane pitched her idea for healthy food vending machines.

The awards were presented in association with the Englewood Quality of Life Plan, Jobs and Economic Development Task Force. The task force was formed to assess needs and identify business opportunities to help Englewood thrive again, said Perry Gunn, Teamwork Englewood’s executive director.

He said the business competition idea came about as they were working on the Quality of Life Plan.

“We noticed that a lot of startups and small businesses were looking to launch their business or to expand their businesses,” he said.

The new competition was such a success that people already have asked if it can become an annual event, Gunn said.

“It was powerful,” he said.

Roth said the five-month competition was fast-paced and very intense. What made it so unique was the critique they received and the chance to repitch if they made it to the final phase.

The Dec. 15 “Pitch Day” blue ribbon panel of judges included: Andrea Zopp, City of Chicago deputy mayor and chief neighborhood development officer; Commissioner Maria Guerra Lapacek with the City of Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection; Edward and Shirley Calahan of Calahan Funeral Home in Englewood; and Whole Foods Market Co-CEO Walter Robb.

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